UPDATE 1-Chile Mar industry hits 28-yr low on quake-group

* March output worst since July 1982

* Quake hits oil refining, wood pulp, fishing hardest

* Sofofa sees 2010 industrial output growth 1.5-2.5 pct
(Updates with Sofofa comment, comparative data)

SANTIAGO, April 27 (BestGrowthStock) – Chile’s industrial output
slumped 19.4 percent in March from a year earlier, the worst
reading in 28 years, after a massive Feb. 27 quake battered the
economy, main industrial association Sofofa said on Tuesday.

Industrial sales dropped 14.1 percent in the same period.

State statistics agency INE is due to report the
government’s own industrial output reading for March on
Wednesday at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT).

“Industrial output in March registered the second biggest
fall on record,” Sofofa said in a statement. “The March fall
reflects the force of the effects of the earthquake on the
productive capacity of industry.”

March was the first full month of data since an
8.8-magnitude quake battered south-central Chile, killing
hundreds, wrecking roads and pummeling the forestry, fishing,
fruit and wine industries.

The mainstay mining industry in the world’s No.1 copper
producer was basically unscathed.

“The sectors that fell most in March because of the
earthquake are oil refining, wood pulp, industrial fishing,
iron and steel and sawmills,” Sofofa said.

“Several industries were also paralyzed for several days
because of energy disruptions after the quake,” it added.

Sofofa said industrial output fell 6.7 percent in the first
quarter from a year earlier, while industrial sales were down
5.9 percent during the period.

It still expects industrial output to grow between 1.5
percent to 2.5 percent this year, compared to a pre-quake
forecast for around a 5.5 percent increase.

The central bank says the quake has hampered data
collection from affected areas, making readings “complex.”

Strong prices for No.1 export copper have helped counter
the quake’s impact, which was not perceptible in trade balance
data for March and the first half of April.

Chile posted a trade surplus of $1.18 billion in the first
half of April compared with a $662.5 million surplus during the
same period a year ago, the central bank said last week. For a
full story, see [ID:nN23157982].

Chile’s trade surplus (CLTBAL=ECI: ) grew to $1.365 billion
in the month of March, the central bank reported earlier this
month, over 2 percent above that in February, as copper sales
helped the country expand its exports despite chaos following
the quake.

The central bank cut its 2010 GDP growth forecast range to
4.25 percent to 5.25 percent due to the quake from a previous
outlook for a 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent expansion, and has
raised its inflation forecast.

Stock Research

(Reporting by Santiago Newsroom; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

UPDATE 1-Chile Mar industry hits 28-yr low on quake-group